Those with interest in ‘snail mail’ and/or London history will…
The most common things to be sent through the Royal Mail postal system are letters and simple parcels, which are often packaged in boxes or durable bags.
However, this isn’t all that postal workers handle, and we’ve gathered some fascinating examples below.
While many packages are handled and the contents mostly remain unknown, the below examples were sent without packaging — exposing the truth and testing the British postal system to its limits.
W. Reginald Bray, an accountant and eccentric in Victorian London, successfully posted himself multiple times — first in 1900, then again in 1903 and later, in 1932.
On 23 February 1909, two suffragettes also posted themselves to 10 Downing Street, London, to speak to the then Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, regarding women’s right to vote.
Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan were delivered the very same day by courier; however, officials then refused to sign for them. Because of this, they weren’t able to see the Prime Minister, either. Eventually, they had to leave again with the courier — essentially being returned to sender.
While this is no longer the case, at one point in time, live animals were able to be sent through the mail in the UK.
Alongside himself, W. Reginald Bray once sent his Irish terrier, Bob, through the post (separately).
Bray also posted a rabbit skull.
Inspired by Bray and his postal adventures, David Bramwell and David Robinson spent a year sending bizarre and unpackaged inanimate objects to each other through the Royal Mail service. This was purely to see if the items would arrive.
These items included a pair of men’s underwear, a leaf, and a slice of toast.
The only item to have been sent by the men which didn’t arrive at its destination was a toilet roll. The roll must have unravelled en route and therefore lost its address.
An illustrator named Harriet Russell published a book called Envelopes in 2008 which features a selection of the 100+ envelopes she previously posted through the mail, all featuring puzzles.
The puzzles include anagrams of the destination address, word searches, crosswords, drawings, and more.
Most of these envelopes were successfully deciphered by Royal Mail workers and the mail delivered to the correct address. Some of the envelopes even received interaction from Royal Mail staff by way of written comments.
Quite bizarrely, there are several businesses online who will anonymously send a potato for you to a recipient of your choice. Based on this, I’m imagining quite a few potatoes get sent through the mail regularly. Although, most will be parcelled up.
However, you can apply postage and an address to a potato yourself and post it anonymously to whoever you’d like. Doing that would no doubt cost less and would undoubtedly be met with more surprise!
What can’t you send?
You can find a detailed list of what you cannot send via Royal Mail in the UK, here. The list includes items such as aerosols, nail varnish, magnets, and weapons.